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Come help us transform illegal charcoal makers into solar powered park rangers in the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo!



The Eyes of Virunga is a virtual and physical adventure-filled Eco-Trek to the Virunga National Park to engage and connect world-wide stakeholders of the Park to compassionate actors on the ground in support of the projects outlined by the Virunga Alliance.

The Eyes of Virunga will include several 'journeys' aligned with the Alliance's economic development and project strategies, including delivery of solar powered chargers to the Park Rangers. The Alliance recently won the support of Google as part of their Google UK Impact Challenge, connecting Virunga communities to the world via Google sponsored communications hubs and a safety network improving the reporting of poachers and other threats to the viability of the Park.

The electricity provided by the solar chargers will power the equipment needed to protect the rainforests of this World Heritage Site from poachers and illegal charcoal producers who use the trees of the National Park to produce charcoal, which is sold illegally to the displaced people of the DR Congo.  

What actions do you propose?

Who will take these actions?

Robert Williams, Virunga National Park, to assist in the production of "Eyes of Virunga" partnerships including a forthcoming fiscal sponsorship for this project. Robert serves as Project Advisor.

The Virunga Alliance, HQ for the Virunga National Park Action Agendas serves as project fiscal sponsor and organizational leadership.

Morey Bean, Founding Member, Impact HUB Boulder, Conservationist and Architect, serving as Project Director.

Thatcher Bean, Filmmaker serving as Project Co-Director, Cinematographer and Editor.

Deia SchlosbergPale Blue Dot Media, Two time Student Emmy Award Winning Filmmaker serving as Director of Photography.

Jordan Kopp, Boulder High School student, Mountain Gorilla Conservationist, serving as Student Director and Intrepid Eco-Trekker. This "All About Poaching" presentation was created by Jordan in the 7th grade. 

Future Partnerships in Development.

Rainforest Connection  An exciting project is being mobilized in rainforests around the world that provides low-cost cloud-connected forest listening devices to provide instant threat alerts to park protectors of potential illegal logging via text messages. We anticipate deployment of these devices in the forests of the Virunga National Park. 

tifie The Eyes of Virunga Team anticipates partnering with Teaching Individuals and Families Independence through Enterprise to deploy solar powered technology including recharging panels to the National Park Rangers. 

Association of National Park Rangers In anticipation of the 2016 Eighth World Ranger Congress, the Team will collaborate to strengthen the relationship between ANPR and the Rangers of the Virunga National Park.

Kiva In order to support local enterprise, a special portal to specific micro-finance entrepreneurs will be established for Eco-Trekkers to make loans to aspiring business persons. 

The Influence Film Forum  The Forum provides tools that help actors watch and discuss the film, and then influence their world based on what they've learned.

Where will these actions be taken?

  • Virunga National Park, DR Congo via the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Online, internationally in several interactive social action platforms such as Participant Mediachange.orgFiReFilms, Tribeca Sandbox, Care2, Harmony Institute, Upworthy and TakePart.
  • In Schools surrounding the Park connected to international conservation educational programs like Roots and Shoots internationally.
  • Boulder International Film Festival, March 2015 where we're hopeful that the movie Virunga will be screened, including a BIFF Call to Action platform engaging audiences with meetings, discussions and in
  • Eco-Trekkers Communities theaters, backyards, schools, churches and community centers upon their heroic return, with amazing stories to tell and an impactful film to show.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

What are other key benefits?

  • International awareness of the Virunga National Park as the focus of rainforest threats and the resulting need to take action.
  • Direct carbon footprint reduction for both eco-travelers and their supporters.
  • Education about the actions that conservationists can take to protect threatened rainforests.
  • Systemic Economic Change in the current system that allows the production and illegal trade of charcoal to a system that encourages and rewards the use of renewable solar power.
  • Positive Social Change where poachers and rebels who are now forced to survive by producing charcoal to a social system that encourages the training and employment of park rangers who use renewable energy in their job. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

Business Model

An integral part of the project's success will be eco-trekkers commitment to the success of the Virunga Alliance's projects by putting their economic support of the non-tourism projects first and their visit second. Eco-volun-tourists' crowdsourced funding campaigns on platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo will emphasize that the only way the campaign will be successful is only after a selected non-tourism Virunga project has been supported with a "Sustainability Budget" in an amount equal to their tourism budget amount.

Project Costs 

Action 1.0: Virunga National Park Eco-Treks: $20,000 per trekker, including a $10,000 trip budget and $10,000 pre-travel matching project support budget.

Action 2.0: The interactive "Eyes of Virunga" film: Virunga" film: $165,00065,000 Matching funding is anticipated with the support of funding agencies such as Creative Capital, the TFI New Media FundThe Fledgling Fund and other similar call to action supporters.

Action 3.0: Post Screening Calls To Action: Action 3.0: Post Screening Calls To Action: $120,000 Annually 20,000 Annually will provide continuing and sustainable support for Eco-Trekkers and their social network communities.  In order to make the enterprise sustainable, income will be earned from a percentage of grants and loans made to Virunga based micro-entrepreneurs. 

Potential Negative Side Effects

  • A better economy may reward more materialism and more greed if Western advertising follows the money.
  • The charcoal produced will still be used as it's diverted from the illegal trade to be used by DR Congo populations who have been displaced by war and given the retrieved charcoal for survival use in their refugee camps. 
  • Although the Virunga National Park is open to visitors, the Eco-Trekkers will be at a heightened personal risk in a somewhat unstable political setting.
  • The endangered Mountain Gorilla of the Virunga may be at greater risk of being murdered as militants escalate their attempts to [truncated]

Time line

The phasing for project implementation will be in collaboration with the phasing of projects sponsored by the Virunga Alliance. See:

Short term:

  • First Eco-Trek to the DR Congo, winter 2014,
  • Screening of "Virunga", First Congregational Church, November, 2014
  • Online Interactive Media launch in conjunction with the Netflix launch of the Movie Virunga,
  • Follow-up Eco-Treks to Virunga, Summer, 2015,
  • Development of the Renewable Energy Eco-Trek Conservation Project, and
  • Deployment of Park Ranger park surveillance technology including solar powered device charging and power storage equipment.
  • Fundraising for a hybrid "Gorilla Bus" that will transport kids from surrounding communities to and from the Park for environmental education, Q1 and Q2, 2015. 

Medium term:

  • Protection of greater areas of critical rainforest habitat.
  • Development of an international park ranger mentorship program in conjunction with the Association of National Park Rangers. 
  • Systemic economic, political and socioeconomic change similar to those found in neighboring Rwanda.

Long Term

  • Establishment of local micro-entrepreneurial businesses organized around renewable energy and eco-tourism.

Related proposals

Shifting Behavior: Climate Stories Project

US Carbon Pricing: Sno-Caps: The People’s Cap-And-Trade

Disaster Risk Management: On African Climate: a technology-assisted synergistic approach to adaptation

Adaptation to Climate Change: The Natural Resilience Fund, Inc. a way to finance climate resilience projects

2013 Winner, Scaling Renewables in Major Emerging Economies:  From the Crowd to the Base: Crowdfunding for Local Climate Action


Project-Based Mechanisms for Emissions Reductions: Balancing Trade-offs with Baselines, Resources for the Future 

The Potential Role of Carbon Labeling in a Green Economy, Resources for the Future

Keeping Track of Adaptation Actions in Africa (KTAA) - Targeted Fiscal Stimulus Actions Making a Difference, UNEP

Forest Area Statistics, DR Congo, FAO UN



How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Assuming that a Park Ranger using a ​portable 30W solar panel and power storage unit can double his/her effective protection area from 200 to 400 hectares that prevents the illegal logging and charcoal production of the additional area, (@ 50 tons CO2 / hectare), 10,000 tons of CO2 can be prevented from release to the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 2,000 cars off the road (@5 tons CO2 / car / year).  

Eco-trekkers will also participate in a partnership with the Virunga Alliance and a carbon footprint reduction enterprise such as TerraPass as Carbon Balance Business Partners providing carbon credits and footprint reductions to both eco-trekkers and their supporters.